I’ve had a busy few weeks around the woodshop and should apologize for the lack of posts lately. Things have been so busy that I simply don’t have much time in front of the computer…I think that’s a good thing ’cause it means I’ve been in front of the work bench that much more.
Last week I received some samples of the new line of Back Saws from Bad Axe Tool Works in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Mark sent me two of his new 14″ Sash saws, two of the new 12″ carcase saws as well as ‘The Beast master’ – his new and even larger 18″ rip saw that comes with a thicker saw plate (at .0315) and has a full 5″ under the back. This is a big saw for big work and I’m planning on bringing it home to Cape Breton with me for some timber frame joinery this summer…The rest of this nest has been a joy to ‘test drive’ all week and I’ll be sad to see them leave to be quite honest. These really are truly incredible saws.
Lets take a closer look at the new models being offered-
12″ Carcase Saw-
These saws are brand new for 2010 and the first thing you can’t help noticing is the new style and shape of the handles.
Inspired by a Wheeler Madden Clemson, its patterned after those produced in the late 19th century and its as comfortable in use as it is beautiful to admire.
Small details where the plate mortise meet the saw plate add an elegant aesthetic and in hand it feels perfect for hours of use. (Just ask me how I know…) I didn’t ask Mark for any specific finishes so he sent me a nice selection of some of the options in these test saws.
The first one I tried is probably the most unique looking saw I’ve ever laid my eyes on and it features a walnut handle with stainless steel, split nut fasteners and back. Now I don’t want to get too hung up on the look of these saws because let’s face it- its about the function and not the from right? Well that said, it’s impossible not to look at this thing and say- ‘Wow!’ Absolutely beautiful combination of materials.
The walnut is perfectly formed and finished and in combination with the stainless fittings draws this very traditional shape well into the present. Think a modern design for an undeniably vintage feel. This blend of walnut and stainless is without question my top pick for hand saw aesthetics.
Now if I can get past how great it looks I can honestly say it functions about twice that amount…really- this particular saw came filed x-cut at 13tpi and it cut so fast yet so smooth it was absolutely amazing.
Now when I say fast I mean ‘this saw cuts fast!’
I tried it out on some 3/4″ hardwood stock and literally six strokes and I was through it…that’s fast in my book and if you know me you know I’m not a speed freak when it comes to hand tools. For small cabinet making, things like frame and panel doors this saw will get the job done in a hurry.
The second 12″ carcase saw came with a figured cherry handle and Gunsmith-blued fasteners and back. Again as far as aesthetics go it looks friggin’ awesome -( but my personal choice is still the walnut and stainless! ; )
So this second 12″ carcase saw came filed at 14tpi and to most people that probably doesn’t sound like much of a difference but it really is in use and in feel. Especially when starting a cut you’ll immediately notice a difference. The slight change from 13 to 14 tpi makes a saw that cuts slightly slower but leaves an incredibly fine kerf. I tried it through some quarter sawn white oak I still had lying around from the door build last year and I swear you’d almost be able to leave the sawn edge out on a piece of furniture!
Seriously- the saw marks were so fine in the end grain of the oak it almost looked like I had taken a plane or chisel to it after I cut it. I imagine someone who wants a saw that starts very-very smoothly without that initial bite you get from the coarser tooth pattern than this one would be the way to go. If you don’t mind a bit of a ‘bite’ to get going and want to saw through boards like you had but a few hours left to live, then go for the coarser tooth in the 13 tpi.
These saws come with all of the options mentioned above and you can customize them to suite your own styles and tastes. For a back saw of this quality for under $200. dollars ? I don’t think you can go wrong.
14″ Sash/Medium Tenon Saw-
Another new offering for 2010- the 14″ sash saw is able to cut to a depth of 3 5/8″. Now for 99% of furniture makers out there that’s all you’re ever going to need. This isn’t what I’d consider a ‘small’ saw by any means but it still feels much lighter and manageable in hand than the big 16 and 18″ models. If you’ve followed my blogs over the past year you’ll know how much I use and enjoy my big 16″ ‘Jack saw’ . I used it exclusively when I built my sharpening bench in that nasty Ipe wood this past winter. Now when I say I used it exclusively I mean I used it for all of the cross cuts (it’s filed x-cut at 12 tpi) and for all of the rip cuts as well- hence the nick name ‘the Jack Saw’.
So I know many of you think or thought I must be crazy for using a saw of this size for most of my work and can understand why some wood workers may feel this size too much to handle. Well here comes the answer for you non-conformists out there! The 14″ Sash saw filed X-cut is basically a smaller version of my favorite saw on the market- I guess we can call it the‘Jack Jr.’
I often get emails from people asking that age ‘ol question-” If I only buy one saw then what should it be?”– well let me honestly say that this is the answer. A back saw filed cross cut but rips as good if not better than some of my dedicated rip saws from other manufacturers. I’m certainly not trying to slag or dis-respect any other hand saw manufacturers out there but the proof is in the pudding and these saws are filed so sharp and cut so straight that once you finally get them in your hand you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The models I have been using this week are filed 12 and 13 tpi respectively and one came tricked out in walnut and the other in cherry.
Whether you’re a cabinet maker or a boat builder, a luthier or a timber framer, I can’t imagine why anyone serious about wood working hasn’t made the investment. It’ll be the last saw you’ll need but I ‘m damn sure you won’t stop at just one.
Again, like all of the Bad Axe line you can add your own ‘flava of bling’ to the equation and make these things look like you could be sawing in a night club somewhere! All joking aside, these are truly incredible saws and I promise you you’ll never regret the day you place your order with Mark. In fact, you’d better get in line fast because I think he may be getting back-logged; once people start using these things they’ll start telling their friends and pretty soon the wood working community will know without a doubt that Bad Axe Tool Works is the absolute standard of quality and function in hand saws today.
And damn are they sharp!